How To Meditate

I always fancied myself as someone who’d be the kind of person who meditated. I liked the aesthetic of meditation – the modern, new-age hippy vibes, the long hair and flowing floral patterns, white linens and wide-open french doors and patchouli smelling shit. Even though the only time I closed my eyes and shut my brain off was at night (whenever the red wine weighed so heavy on my lids that I couldn’t keep them open a second longer), I probably (i.e., definitely) claimed that I was a meditator, especially in front of good-looking guys whom I was trying to impress.

Reminds me of a joke I heard (the original was about vegans). How do you know if someone meditates? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you. And, I’ve noticed recently, if you get two meditators together, it’s the new-agers equivalent of the “Whachu bench, bruh?” conversation, as they size up each others’ spiritual stamina and flex their respective metaphysical muscles.

Though I wasn’t doing it, I’ve never denied the actual benefits of meditation. I mean, they’re sort of undeniable. Apart from the obvious ones like relieving stress and anxiety, meditation has also been shown to improve cognitive brain function, slow down the symptoms of ageing, increase creativity, improve sleep – and the list goes on. And on. See here.

So, if I liked the look of it and the bones of it so much, why wasn’t I doing it? A sensible question to which I only have a string of nonsensical answers. I could pick them apart, but I think that beneath them was simply a lack of desire to do something that was purely good for me. I was on a destructive bent for a long time; something so good frankly made my skin crawl just a bit.

When I got sober, though, I was told that I had no choice in the matter – meditation was something I had to start doing. I couldn’t just align myself with people who meditated (who even does that?); I would have to actually get my hands dirty.

So with fluctuating degrees of success and enthusiasm, I’ve been doing it for the last two years. In the beginning, I felt like a fraud, like I wasn’t doing it right. But I still showed up mornings and/or evenings to the splintered wooden floor of my apartment, to sit and try to remain on a cushion for ten minutes.

FAR be I from a master meditator or authority on the subject – I’m still a complete novice. But my hope is that my relative ‘newness’ makes the following few bits of advice all the more assimilable for those who want to give it a go.

Make a habit of it.

What makes bad habits so much more entrenched that good ones? Habit itself. If you’re trying to start a new ‘healthy’ habit, it’s going to feel like more of a strain than say, lighting a cigarette is, which feels like the easiest, most natural thing in the world when you’re a smoker. It’s going to take a while before your good habit feels… good.

How long exactly? At least twenty-one days, at most a year – there are varying opinions on this. The bottom line is that (shock, horror) it doesn’t happen overnight.

So, do what you’ve got to do to make sure you do it every damn day. Set reminders if you must. Stick post-it notes on every square inch of your home. If you’re one of those people who has their days scheduled from the second they wake up, then schedule it the fuck into your day. Don’t tell me that you haven’t got time to meditate. That’s bullshit and you and I both know it. If you check your email, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter three times less throughout the day (and, trust me, they won’t miss you and you won’t miss them), that’s at least ten minutes you’ve freed up right there. And I personally fuck around on the interweb for a LOT longer than that, getting sucked deeper by click-bait after click-bait until I’m looking at baby pics of celebrities I’ve never even heard of.

I still have days where I maintain that I don’t have time. But I do I do I do. I wouldn’t say I don’t have time one day to brush my teeth. It’s arguably more important than that, so I’ve cemented it in my mind as a priority (I use Insight Timer for guided meditations, and would strongly recommend).

In becoming a priority, it transcended from a chore into something that I can’t imagine life without. That’s where you want to get to – to where you know it’s a real, hardcore, diehard habit. In other words, exactly how I felt about alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine before I gave them up.

Realise it’s a practice.

When I tell people I meditate (which, in my defence, I only do now if I feel that it might benefit them), they tell me that they can’t meditate because they “just can’t shut off the chatter” of their minds. This was another one of my excuses. But what I was essentially saying was: “I can’t meditate because I can’t meditate”. It’s like saying “I can’t ride a bike because I can’t ride a bike”, or “I can’t play the violin because I don’t know how to play the violin.” These statements, true as they might be, are ridiculous. They don’t offer any good reason as to why you cannot learn how to ride a bike, play the violin or meditate.

The key is in the phrase ‘meditation practice’. It’s a PRACTICE, i.e., it takes time and effort to achieve results. How much time and effort you put in, though, is up to you. As long as it’s habitual, you can start small and build it up.

As an addict, I typically didn’t do anything unless I could see an immediate effect. That’s why alcohol worked so well for me (until it didn’t). Even waiting for weed edibles or acid to kick in was a test to my patience. I liked the instant burn and softening effect that alcohol had on my body and mind. I’m sure I would have been an enthusiastic adopter of a heroin habit, had my life careered in that direction.

So coming into sobriety, non-instant gratification seemed like an abstract concept to me. It took me a while, and sort of by accident, to find out what that looked like.

I started practising yoga from videos on Youtube when I was about nine months sober. I was exhausted in the beginning, and so weak (my arms could barely hold up my body weight), but after about six months of doing a short video almost every day, I started to realise that I had improved. After a year, I was no longer shit and went to a free yoga class to find that I was actually not bad amongst the yoga-practicing masses. I hadn’t really expected any result; one day I just started doing yoga. It was my first conscious experience of things gradually improving over time, and the pleasure that came from brought me so much closer to happiness than instant sensory satisfaction ever could.

Dabble.

Before I got sober, there were many different spiritual paths that piqued my interest, but each seemed so mammoth in scope that I didn’t know where to get started. This was just another paltry excuse – that I was too intimidated by the whole. Yet, had I ever looked at a gigantic plate of delicious food and not known how to take the first bite? Of course not – on the contrary, I have always relished those first few bites. To begin on a spiritual journey, I think one must relish every little morsel, and not think any further ahead than what one is chewing on in the present moment.

The truth was that I was scared to take the first step into the spiritual realm because I knew that its magnitude and magnificence would blow my mind. But I didn’t have to ingest it all at once. As much as I wanted to disregard the cheesy slogans of AA, the following are part of the fabric of my days now: “One day at a time”; “Easy does it”; “it’s about the journey, not the destination.”

Living by these simple slogans, and being in a practice of meditation, it’s made it easier to allow life to flow without thinking about the ‘destination’ or even the journey ahead. I have found that in this flow, curiosities present themselves at the right moment. I feel like Alice walking through Wonderland. First I was presented with Taoism, so I went down that rabbit hole for a bit, reading as much as I could and trying Taoist meditations. Then Paganism crossed my path, so I read more and started attending Meetup groups with other Pagans and meditating and doing magic with them. Most recently, Buddhism presented itself to me, so now I’m pursuing it, one meditation at a time. Within each different path, there are endless sub-paths one can go down, and I think the best thing to do is just to follow what interests you. “Letting the breath breathe you” is a good way to approach it, or, dare I say it, “Let Go and Let God”. Whatever the fuck “god” is to you – whether a horned creature, a beardy cloud man, a flying spaghetti monster or simply an ineffable force – doesn’t matter.

Of course, meditation can be a “secular spiritual” practice, too. You’ll still reap all of the juicy benefits. For me, it just happened to be a spiritual tool, or a spiritual ‘vehicle’. So I’ve tried meditating in the presence of gods and goddesses, angels, the buddha, the sun and the moon – everyone except Jesus, probably – and in doing so I’ve realised that there are no rules or wrong answers, nor is there a timeline or a deadline. This is my journey, my private realm where absolutely anything goes and everything is additive.

So, try it. True, there’s a cornucopia of different spiritual paths, and that might seem daunting, but, to quote Maya Angelou, “We find our path by walking it.”

15 Comments

  1. Thank you, I have reached the grand age of 57 “thinking” about trying meditation. I even recently spoke to a lady who runs classes, ahhh but the only evening she held them was Sunday, I can’t do Sunday ‘s. I bought my alcoholic son cd’s to practice meditation. But I didn’t buy myself them. So again thank you, you have made me realise that if I put my phone down for 20 minutes a day I can have time to do this thing I have wanted to do for years. So now I’m going straight online and getting MYSELF some meditation material. I know it won’t be easy to make “me time” But nothing worthwhile comes easy. Thank you 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Faith, thanks for your post. I use an app called Insight Timer – you can download it onto your smartphone and it features thousands of different types of meditations, ranging from 1 minute long to 3 hours long. So though you won’t quite be “putting down your phone”, you’ll be putting it to good use!

      Best of luck on your search… Meditation is the ultimate in self-care for me, and it sounds like you TRULY deserve it! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oy. I am struggling with this. I can’t seem to get in a rhythm with my meditation. I downloaded insight timer at the request of my sponsor. It worked for a while, but I just can’t seem to find the grit to see it through. Some recent behavior sort of hints that I should try something new. Something’s not working for me right now.

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    1. Hi Mark, thanks for reading! I also use Insight Timer a good bit – I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of the meditations that are on there, though, which is kind of exciting because there’s a lot more for me to explore, and for you too. But, in the beginning, I had a lot of resistance too, and couldn’t quite get into the swing of it (this was before I had the app). What worked for me was just setting a timer on my phone every morning before going to work – I started it at 3 minutes. You could use the timer on Insight Timer to do it. From that point, I made it gradually longer as the weeks went on, so it was a nice easing in. The point was that I consistently did it every single morning. Now, I doubt that I had one “thoughtless breath” for a whole year even, but the point was that I was trying. If I missed a morning for some reason or other, I just jumped right back in the following day – treat each day as a fresh one, there’s no need to penalise yourself!
      If something’s not working for you, it might just be that you’re ‘white-knuckling’ it and being too hard on yourself. Like I said, I’m definitely NOT an authority on the subject, but I can relate to what you’re saying and when it wasn’t working for me, I just needed to ease up on myself and meet meditation as I would a good friend every morning.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It defiantly feels more like a burden than a privilege or necessity. I’ve always phrased that writing is meditating. I get up before the sun in order to get writing in. And it puts me in a similar state of mind, at least I think. It taps me into that deeper subconscious. I wrote about it in a post called “AmWriting”.

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  3. Great post. Meditation is a requirement to living a full life and a must to maintain sobriety. Happy to meet you here, my husbands sobriety is the best gift I ever had from him 🙂

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  4. I also really like the idea of meditating, and I’d love to be the type of person who is all zen and peaceful – but I’m just SO bad at it!! lol

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